Industry Insights - Iskratel
15. 7. 2019

Why will 5G demand a lot of fibre?

One of the hottest topics nowadays is how much 5G will change our lives. The World Economic Forum believes that 5G will be as revolutionary as electricity or the automobile. For others, its capability to transfer enormous quantities of data in real time will make it the next game-changer.

Even if we do not want to jump the conclusions, something is clear. The appetite for data and bandwidth is rapidly increasing, as smart homes, safe cities, connected vehicles and other use cases are on the rise. Yet making cars autonomous and homes smarter will require enormous amounts of data will need to be collected and shared over a network in real time. For a single fully automated car, four terabytes of data are estimated per hour of driving – the transfer speed and latency of 4G are just not up to the task.

But all this excitement about the future has resulted in false assumptions – such as that 5G will eliminate the need for fibre. Getting to where 5G is headed is simply not possible without fibre.

No fibre, no 5G. Why?

Here is why.

5G uses much higher radio frequencies than existing mobile networks. Even though these millimetre-wave signals can carry significant amounts of data, they are only effective for short ranges: they travel just 10% the distance of a 4G signal. Hence, a dense network of 5G small-cell antennas is needed to attain the same coverage as a single 4G tower – a dense network which is connected with fibre. Only fibre is able to meet the bandwidth requirements of 5G cells, and ensure that connected devices and apps running without slowdowns.

But user apps or mobile video are just a small portion of use cases that 5G infrastructure will enable. A growing number of IoT devices put an even greater pressure to the network, fuelling connected vehicles and safe-city infrastructures. These not only put pressure on data rates, but even more importantly, on low latencies of data transfer. While fibre connects the network at lightning speeds, new use cases that 5G enables drive the transformation of network infrastructures even further.

The processing capabilities move closer to the clients, thus reducing response times. Centralised cloud infrastructure disintegrates into a mesh of smaller clouds at the edge, decentralising the network as we know it today. Interestingly, edge clouds not only meet the harsh requirements of new use cases, they even enable new ones that would not be possible without distributed edge clouds – and without all the fibre that facilitates it all.
Fine, but where is PON in all this?
Looking for a more cost-effective, scalable and reliable network for multi-gigabit services, operators need the right balance between near-term investment and strategic, long-term thinking.

Passive optical networks may have not been considered sufficiently for upcoming 5G and IoT use cases; nevertheless, they meet the latency, data-rate, and distance requirements to charge them – recall that PON supports up to eight 10 Gbps wavelengths over a single fibre, at that at any point of time, more capacity is only a wavelength away.

Furthermore, PON technology reduces the costs to build and run the network:
  • PON allows operators and service providers to use a single network infrastructure for multiple services and use cases, cutting network-infrastructure costs;
  • New generations of PON fully reuse the passive infrastructure of existing PON generations, and coexist with them, helping operators to meet the needs as they develop and use cases dictate.
Migration to next-gen PON does not cost a fortune. Find out how to control the migration and unlock the full potential of your optical assets without service disruption.
Download the whitepaper